Elephants feast on Piñata pineapples


Ever since managing director Gavin Scurr heard that pineapples are a nutritious source of food for elephants, the elephants at Taronga Zoo Sydney have been feasting on spent Piñata pineapple plants.

The special – and sustainable – bond was formed sometime in the early 2000s.

This was when Taronga Zoo, along with Melbourne Zoo and Auckland Zoo, transported 10 elephants from Thailand to Australia. There are currently only Asian elephants in Australia.

Today, Piñata Farms supplies 16 pallets every fortnight to feed three females and one young male at Taronga Zoo. Once a pineapple plant has produced two crops (over about three years), the spent plants are pulled out and saved for the elephants instead of being ploughed back into the ground as is standard in pineapple production. And, with some 6.5 million plants growing at the Wamuran, south-east Queensland farm, there’s a ready supply of food all year 'round. The consignments are packed at Wamuran and transported by truck to Sydney.

Elephant keeper Johny Wade says spikey pineapple plants make for perfect elephant fodder as elephants have four large molar teeth that allow them to eat tough food sources such as wood and bark – so pineapple plants are relatively soft in comparison.

A fully grown elephant can eat up to 150kg of food a day. The elephants are fed Piñata pineapples every day and consume about up to four pallets a week. Pineapple plants are nutritionally valuable to elephants because each plant takes a few minutes to fully consume and the elephants use their trunks, mouths and feet in the process – exactly as they would in the wild.

Pineapple plants also contain the enzyme bromelain that has anti-inflammatory properties and can be beneficial to heavy animals that spend almost all day on their feet. All that eating makes elephants thirsty and they drink about 200 litres a day to wash their pineapple plants down.

Image  courtesy Taronga Zoo Sydney.